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November 08, 2007 - Image 35

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2007-11-08

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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n The

mardwalk

Merchants hold their own amid
Michigan's rough economy

Bill Carroll
Special to the Jewish News

B

orn during a recession, The
Boardwalk Shopping Center
on Orchard Lake Road in West
Bloomfield, home to thousands of shop-
pers a month — some of the same women
even daily — has gone through several
downturns in the national and state econ-
omies since 1981. But the 16 businesses
are holding their own so far this year,
especially three popular women's wear
retailers, called "destination" stores, a trade
reference to places that shoppers usually
go to first.

"Our merchants are stalwarts

in this business. They're

bringing in people, moving

the merchandise and doing all

they can to stay on top."

— Bluma Siegal, The Boardwalk

Whether they're grabbing a quick cup of
coffee at the Port City Java shop at the cen-
ter's south end, or eating a full meal at the
Stage Deli on the north, or spending hours
at the stores in between, shoppers in the
Jewish community seem proud of the little
outdoor center they can call their own.

"It's the closest thing to a down-
town we'll ever get in West Bloomfield,"
observed a female shopper entering her
car with several bags. And nine of the 16
stores are operated by Jews.
The Boardwalk merchants aren't flinch-
ing at the effects of competition from new
or expanded mega malls in the Detroit
area in recent months or the prospect of
what will happen to traffic and their bot-
tom lines when a widening project for
Orchard Lake Road begins in 2009.
"We're feeling the state's economy
problems, but it's nothing drastic," said
Bluma Siegal of Farmington Hills, head
of marketing and public relations for The
Boardwalk. "We've made great strides here
in the past 26 years. Our merchants are
stalwarts in this business. They're bring-
ing in people, moving the merchandise
and doing all they can to stay on top."
Her husband, Leonard, an architect,
is one of the three Boardwalk investors,
along with business entrepreneur Ron
Licht and attorney Harold Beznos, both of
Bloomfield Hills. They started together as
investors in Applegate Shopping Center in
Southfield. Leonard Siegal is credited with
giving The Boardwalk its name, based
on the highest-valued property in the
Monopoly game.
Only two of the stores, Chico's and
Acorn, both selling women's clothes, are
national concerns; the Running Fit fitness
shop is a state firm. The rest are local-only
operations, sort of sophisticated "mom-
and-pop" stores, especially those helmed

Mark Blumenfeld of Rear Ends

by three men who dress women for a
living, usually 10 a.m.-6 p.m., six days
a week: Mark Blumenfeld of Rear Ends;
Harold Rothenberg of Hersh's and Rob
Wolk of Sundance Shoes. While declining
to give specific sales and profit figures
in their privately held companies, they
agreed that sales now are "good, but not
great."

Rear Ends
Rear Ends is a unisex store filled with
casual merchandise, like very "in" sepa-
rates, sweaters, tops, accessory jackets,
even the Hardtail roll-top yoga pant; but
jeans and T-shirts are the specialties.
"Our sales have been steadily increas-
ing over the 14 years we've been here,
but we've experienced a 2 percent drop

through September this year compared to
the same period of '06," said Blumenfeld,
56, of Farmington Hills.
He formulated plans for the business
and came up with the Rear Ends name
while living on an Israeli kibbutz in
1976. "The idea was to avoid the corpo-
rate structure and be independent," he
explained.
Blumenfeld graduated from Southfield
High School and Oakland University with
a political science degree but, after his
"year off" hitch-hiking around Europe
and Israel, he opened a store at Applegate
(for 16 years) before coming to The
Boardwalk. He emulated his mother,
Gladys Blumenfeld, who operated Diane's

On The Boardwalk on page A36

November 8 • 2007

A35

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